[EDITORIALS]North withholds its athletesBreaking its word, North Korea indicated yesterday that it would not send its athletes and cheerleaders to the Summer Universiade Daegu 2003. At first it said its teams could not depart due to technical problems with the flights, but yesterday its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland released a statement that cited political reasons for its boycott. It is up to the North to decide whether to participate. But if it attempts to politicize the matter with subjective judgments and arguments, ignoring the multidimensional character of South Korean society, we must cope with such unilateral action cool-headedly.
The statement charged that the South Korean government reacted unfairly to two rallies held Friday in Seoul ― by conservatives against Kim Jong-il and North Korea’s nuclear program, and by progressives criticizing the United States and chanting for peace. The North demanded an official apology from Seoul. That is just absurd. The North is directly meddling in our domestic affairs and threatening us. We should not take it lightly.
Pyeongyang raised the issue on the faulty premise that the South Korean government has control over everything, as in the North. It further distorted the truth by accusing the Seoul government of favoring the conservative groups’ protest against the North while suppressing the anti-American rallies of the progressive groups. This is simply preposterous and lays Pyeongyang open to ridicule.
North Korea’s rigid system of competitive demonstrations of loyalty and its intention to pressure the Roh administration are the issues here. The zeal to take advantage of the burning of the portraits of Mr. Kim and North Korean flags is in the background of the statement. North Korea, at the same time, did not hide its intention to press the Roh administration, which seems to have devised a different policy on North Korea from the last administration’s engagement policy.
Seoul must try to persuade the North to attend the sports event, but must not yield to the demand for an official apology. The government must never offer any kind of apology ― even privately ― to lure the North to the event.